FANTASY GROUNDS Goes 3D With TABLETOP CONNECT
  • FANTASY GROUNDS Goes 3D With TABLETOP CONNECT


    Fantasy Grounds, the officially licensed D&D virtual tabletop software, has just acquired Tabletop Connect, a 3D virtual tabletop which was successfully Kickstarted a couple of years ago. "Tabletop Connect is a system-neutral 3D virtual tabletop that lets you connect with your friends to play role-playing games just like you’re around a real table. You play in a true 3D environment—with miniatures, terrain tiles, physics simulated dice, character sheets, and handouts—you can almost feel the dice in your hands." Already one of the big two VTTs (the other being Roll20), this looks like it'll take online virtual tabletop gaming to a whole new level.




    Here's the full press release:

    I am pleased to announce that Tabletop Connect has been acquired by SmiteWorks USA, LLC, the developer of the industry leading Fantasy Grounds virtual tabletop. As part of this acquisition I will be joining the SmiteWorks team to accelerate the port of Fantasy Grounds to the Unity platform. "

    Doug Davison, President and Co-Owner of SmiteWorks added, "We have a distinct vision of what virtual tabletops can and should look like over the coming years and how Smiteworks can accomplish those things with Fantasy Grounds. For that reason, we began porting the core engine for Fantasy Grounds to Unity so that we could streamline and enhance the experience for players and GM's alike and distribute it more easily across all platforms. We've been following the progress of Tabletop Connect since it launched on Kickstarter and we've been very impressed with what Carl has been able to produce as a one-man operation. He shares the same vision we do on many areas and brings a unique level of talent, passion and creativity that is very hard to find. After some great one-on-one discussions, we believe that together we can do more than we could working separately. Work has been progressing on the Unity rebuild for the last year and I am genuinely excited about how the addition of Carl to the team will allow us to speed up the completion of this project and provide additional enhancements to the resulting product. "

    During the development of Tabletop Connect your feedback and support have been invaluable. This is a unique opportunity to contribute to the next generation of virtual tabletops and to deliver the experience that you deserve.

    As a backer of Tabletop Connect, you should soon receive the details of the realignment to Fantasy Grounds and your options during this transition.

    Sincerely, thanks again for all of your support and I look forward to you joining me on this exciting new adventure!





    Tabletop Connect is here. Fantasy Grounds is, of course, here.



    Comments 61 Comments
    1. Banesfinger -
      Wowzers... that looks fantastic.
      But how many years (?) of development before we see a 3D version of Fantasy Grounds?
    1. Miladoon's Avatar
      Miladoon -
      IME the 3d experience is only as good as the ability to customize the environment.
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      Sooo...there's a niche for people who don't play real TRPGs, and also don't already play video game RPGs? I thought those two had the bases covered.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
      Sooo...there's a niche for people who don't play real TRPGs, and also don't already play video game RPGs? I thought those two had the bases covered.
      You're not familiar with virtual tabletops, play-by-post, and other forms of online gaming? They're very popular, and have been around for quite a while.
    1. BlueDrake's Avatar
      BlueDrake -
      Fantasy Grounds is a real TRPG. it just happens to be hosted on a virtual tabletop instead of a physical one. I've been running games on it for several years and coupled with Skype it does an amazing job of simulating the real tabletop experience.

      In fact it automates quite a bit of the bookkeeping so the game moves faster than it would at a traditional table.
    1. Mr. Flibble's Avatar
      Mr. Flibble -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
      Sooo...there's a niche for people who don't play real TRPGs, and also don't already play video game RPGs? I thought those two had the bases covered.
      There's a very viable niche for gamers who prefer tabletop but aren't able to schedule in-person sessions. A VTT also has some value during a plain old tabletop session.
    1. Miladoon's Avatar
      Miladoon -
      TTRPG is the best way, but when your friends and game group are states and or continents apart the VTT works.
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      Morrus, one, I'm a hermit. You should know that by now

      Two, sure there are other types of gaming, but those gorgeous screenshots are so video game-like that I can hear people saying, "if I'd just play an MMORPG, I'd get the same graphics, and battles would last two minutes instead of two hours." I hope I'm wrong, because Tabletop Connect has some good potential.
    1. Mr. Flibble's Avatar
      Mr. Flibble -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
      Morrus, one, I'm a hermit. You should know that by now

      Two, sure there are other types of gaming, but those gorgeous screenshots are so video game-like that I can hear people saying, "if I'd just play an MMORPG, I'd get the same graphics, and battles would last two minutes instead of two hours." I hope I'm wrong, because Tabletop Connect has some good potential.
      I'm sure someone can say that, but they miss what I think are the two big selling points for tabletop: real social contact and options unlimited by software. There's a real, true middle ground here.
    1. AaronOfBarbaria's Avatar
      AaronOfBarbaria -
      Virtual Table Tops are wickedly awesome, especially when they can actually look like the real table top (a little less like it in some ways, being digital and all, but certainly not without gaining some advantages a typical table top doesn't have - such as me being able to use all my artistic skill and a full palette of colors and textures, rather than whatever I can manage to doodle with a vis-a-vis on some brown vinyl with a grid).

      I'd never use one to replace my actual table top though, since I have hundreds of miniatures that I will eventually have all painted just how I want them... but I would definitely build a tv/monitor into a table so I could use digital maps painted by me and throw out the old battle-mat that takes a lot of time away from the game in order to erase one map, dry it off, and draw another or to set up dungeon tiles that approximate the setting of an encounter.

      And I have players I miss having at my table, and a virtual table top gives more opportunities for smoother interaction between us when connecting Idaho, Arizona, and Louisiana residents in a session than a skype + my actual table arrangement does.

      And even digitally, it is still the experience of playing D&D with no limits beyond my imagination - which is vastly different from a video game, no matter how many players can join or how many race and class combinations the video game supports, or even how much quest content the video game includes.
    1. Agamon's Avatar
      Agamon -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
      Two, sure there are other types of gaming, but those gorgeous screenshots are so video game-like that I can hear people saying, "if I'd just play an MMORPG, I'd get the same graphics, and battles would last two minutes instead of two hours." I hope I'm wrong, because Tabletop Connect has some good potential.
      I don't know of any VRPG video games where the characters are minis. This is more like 3D chess. Or a digital version of Dwarven Forge. Just because the "tiles" are nicer looking than a flat jpg map shouldn't push players away....
    1. Miladoon's Avatar
      Miladoon -
      The core assumption is still covered:
      DM + players + scenario + dice rolls = RPG

      My hesitation, in this case, the graphic environment is limited. Typically, additional models will be provided at cost.
    1. Nylanfs's Avatar
      Nylanfs -
      I'm kind of interested in how the backers and realignment between the two groups go. Also there are a smaller number of FG users that have either a full license or an ultimate license AND were a backer for Tabletop Connect, that will be interesting to see how it is handled.
    1. innerdude's Avatar
      innerdude -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miladoon View Post
      IME the 3d experience is only as good as the ability to customize the environment.
      ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^

      THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS a thousand times THIS.

      The biggest problem with using tools like this is the need to meet two goals simultaneously for the digital environment.


      1. You need to let people get wicked creative doing their own pre-rendered set pieces and environments.

      2. It needs to allow fast, easy, on-the-fly modifications / drawing / content overlays that don't bog down the in-game presentation.


      Those are two very difficult, and in some cases diametrically opposed use cases.

      I've fiddled quite a bit with the Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 scenario builders, thinking that they would be a great way to make encounters more fun and interesting.

      But it only meets use case #1; it utterly fails at use case #2. Trying to do anything "on the fly"---especially for indoor environments---is ridiculously hard.
    1. Ranes's Avatar
      Ranes -
      Quote Originally Posted by innerdude View Post
      1. You need to let people get wicked creative doing their own pre-rendered set pieces and environments.

      2. It needs to allow fast, easy, on-the-fly modifications / drawing / content overlays that don't bog down the in-game presentation.


      Those are two very difficult, and in some cases diametrically opposed use cases.
      I agree. VTT software already asks more of the GM than preparation for a face-to-face session does. What time VTTs save you in-game is more than made up for by that required to port and set up assets prior to a VTT-based game. Not that I think that's an intrinsically bad thing, because VTTs have their own benefits.

      But a 3D environment is a more complex beast than a 2D one and what's crucial here is how easily a 3DFG will make it for DMs to create environments (versatile asset sets available for purchase sound like a must) and how rapidly the software enables environment construction and on-the-fly modification.

      It's exciting news, though. I'm looking forward to see what comes of it.
    1. BrockBallingdark -
      Mind blown! I helped KS this application and was thinking, how awesome if they could somehow merged with Fantasy grounds. Never thought that would happen. This news made my week!
    1. I'm A Banana's Avatar
      I'm A Banana -
      I confess that I don't get the big appeal of a 3d tabletop. For one, it looks like it would be super time-intensive to make your own maps on the thing, something which Fantasy Grounds is already pretty lousy at.

      I'm an FG user, I use their software once a week or more, I've invested a big chunk of money into it, and I don't need this. I need better map gridding, better drag-and-drop token making, the ability to draw more than one area of effect, better lighting modeling, all before I need even one polygon.

      I want to run D&D games with my VTT, not make video games.

      But maybe there's some community that actually wants to make their maps like this that I just don't know about? Wouldn't be the first time I was out of touch.
    1. BlueDrake's Avatar
      BlueDrake -
      I think the appeal is for those GMs or players who enjoy building their own 3D maps at the table or painting miniatures. I've seen some crazy elaborate setups that people use at their table that must have taken months or even years to create. It's another aspect of the hobby.

      I understand and agree with your point. It does look super time intensive, and if you're not into that sort of thing it isn't going to add much to your actual game play. I don't see myself spending a lot of time with it when it's available, but it might be cool to whip out a 3D battleground once or twice.

      I also agree that there are better things they could focus on, but on the bright side they now have another person to help the port to unity. In time I think that will lead to some of the features you (and me) would like to see.
    1. FormerlyHemlock's Avatar
      FormerlyHemlock -
      Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
      Morrus, one, I'm a hermit. You should know that by now

      Two, sure there are other types of gaming, but those gorgeous screenshots are so video game-like that I can hear people saying, "if I'd just play an MMORPG, I'd get the same graphics, and battles would last two minutes instead of two hours." I hope I'm wrong, because Tabletop Connect has some good potential.
      There's a huge difference between a virtual tabletop and an MMORPG. To put it in computer science terms, a good virtual tabletop is like a language with a REPL loop (Python, F#, Lisp, MATLAB) whereas an MMORPG is like a compiled .exe. The REPL loop lets you inject data/code into your execution environment at runtime so you can say things like, "Hey, make all those orcs run away at top speed now." An .exe on the other hand will require a UI and AI routines so it can know when to make all the orcs run away at top speed, and then it will handle it without any user input. The .exe is a more polished experience which doesn't require an experienced user at the wheel, but it's massively harder to develop. You can get pretty far, pretty cheaply with an interactive REPL loop and someone who knows how to use it. Since D&D is designed around having someone in charge, called the DM, there's not all that much value in trying to go the extra mile and completely automate everything with plans for everything. Instead the DM acts as the AI and the overall rules engine. "Okay, you scared them with your war paint, and now they're running away." "Okay, you hit the wall with your sledgehammer, and now that wall isn't there any more. You can go in through the back now--but something nearby may have heard you." Meanwhile the game is still acting as the execution engine so the DM knows what was in range to hear you, and how much closer it can move in two minutes.

      You can do without VTT automation, but I won't lie--there are some things in D&D that are enough hassle to track (monsters out of visual range; monster positions and action declarations/resolutions in a large battle; "who hasn't gone yet?") that I occasionally write my own automation tools. (One example here: http://maxwilson.github.io/RollWeb/Roll/) I usually don't use those tools at the table, because pulling out my laptop is disruptive, but if there were a way to easily integrate my automation into the physical environment via augmented reality like Hololens, I would absolutely use those tools at the table.

      "Computer: randomly generate seven combatants on this here physical grid on my table and tag them as orcs. Put the four PCs in standard matching order HERE. Begin combat." Then the computer can keep track of orc HP, movement, and initiative. That would be AWESOME.

      TL;DR: an MMORPG is an automated DM and an automated execution environment; but D&D doesn't need an automated DM but an automated execution environment would still rock, especially if it integrated smoothly with physical objects like my table.
    1. Miladoon's Avatar
      Miladoon -
      Quote Originally Posted by innerdude View Post
      ....

      I've fiddled quite a bit with the Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 scenario builders, thinking that they would be a great way to make encounters more fun and interesting.

      But it only meets use case #1; it utterly fails at use case #2. Trying to do anything "on the fly"---especially for indoor environments---is ridiculously hard.
      NWN is what I used to create map tiles and tokens to use in PbP. Fun, but took a long time and was limited to original content or whatever the fandom uploaded.
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